So You Want To Move To Woodstock, Part I: Surviving A Mussoorie Winter

As we look forward to celebrating our fifth year anniversary at Woodstock this coming November, Adam and I put our heads together to come up with a series: So You Want To Move To Woodstock? This will be some of our tips and tricks for life here, and we think our friends and family will find some of this interesting!

Winter has finally left us here in Mussoorie, and with that, Adam and I are reflecting back on the tricks we’ve figured out over the years for surviving a Mussoorie winter.

 

  • Pinecones are your friends. For heating your house, it’s best to accumulate a box full of anything flammable – dryer lint, egg trays, leftover exam papers after midterm exams are done in December – but nothing beats pinecones to get a fire going. This year, they were selling for between Rs400-Rs700/bag (some people charged significantly more, but those seem outrageously aberrant numbers), and a bag is a large burlap sack full. We started using our woodstove in November and ended in March (wet and chilly days, home with Asha, meant the bukhari would be on low and slow-burning) and went through about 4-5 bags. It’s possible to go through more, easily, but we were middle-of-the road with our usage of them.
  • Window covers. If you can buy, or bring, or have someone bring, plastic window covers and tape – it’s well worth it. In many houses, due to the swelling of wood during monsoon, gaps can form with the wood in the windows and window frames. Covering the windows with plastic sheeting (and, if you can, thick curtains) helps keep drafts out, and all that precious warmth from your heaters or bukhari inside!
  • Dress smart. For anyone who has travelled, or lived where there’s very changeable weather (Toronto, Connecticut, Melbourne) you’re intimately familiar with the idea of layering your clothing. It becomes critical in Mussoorie winters – you may go from freezing indoors (gogo concrete construction!) to feeling overheated walking outside in the sunshine, and then back to being an ice cube in a classroom. Boots or shoes with thick/warm socks (and/or insulated liners), and slippers indoors, are must-haves. There can be as much as a 15 degree difference between indoor and outdoor temperatures in the winter – with the outdoor being warmer!
  • Plan your room use. Once you know what room(s) you have and what you’ll be using to heat them, plan use accordingly. Adam and I try to shut off rooms not in use as much as possible, from closing doors to hanging curtains to block off the hallway. It significantly helps trap/funnel heat where you want it to go, and where you’ll be.
  • Stock up on fuel. Whether it’s oil for the electric-oil radiators, firewood and pine briquettes for the bukharis, or something else – plan on acquiring your fuel early. In the case of firewood, the type and quality will vary throughout the year (if it comes from the school); Adam and I find it works best to start getting wood in October (after everything’s dried out from monsoon) and that way we’ve got some for the first cold snaps. Wood is stored outdoors, so if there’s a heavy snowfall and you order wood, your fuel may come anywhere from ‘a bit wet’ to ‘soaked’; having some dry wood to help get the fire started (and help the other wood dry out) is important.
  • Don’t rely on electricity. The electricity can, and will, go out unpredictably and for unknown lengths of time. Usually it’s under 5 minutes, though there are longer stretches – and in the case of an unexpectedly heavy snowfall in January, it was out for several days on campus. Woodstock’s power grid just can’t handle all of the draw to run electric heaters and such in addition to its normal load, so it’s best to find other things than electric heaters to rely on, and to trim your electricity usage as much as possible in the winter.

 

With all that said… at the time this post is up, Adam and I will be down in the plains, in 30(C)+ degree weather. Delhi’s predicted to be 37C!

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